Today, we went to Petra (which means “rock” in Greek) during the day, because, as Brayden wrote in his last blog, we saw it last night in the dark, by candlelight. Petra is a historical site in Jordan. Actually, “Indiana Jones The Last Crusader” was filmed at the most popular building in Petra called the Treasury. They call it the Treasury because it was thought that was where the Nabatean people would leave their gold in an urn. It was actually both a temple and a tomb. It really was hard to believe it was carved from rock.
We learned a lot about Petra while exploring. We learned from our guide, Hassan, that Petra was made from sandstone that is 33 million years old and was once under the ocean! Sandstone is so soft that when the Nabateans first started to live there, they would carve with narrow passageways using flint stones for rainwater to run through, like a river. At the end of the ‘rivers’ there would be a sort of well to store the water for drinking and cleaning uses. The stone was magical and had lots of colors in the huge rock canyons, from red to brown to yellow to black and purple.
We also learned that wealthy families would have burial mausoleums with beautiful facades to honor their dead. The afterlife was very important to the Nabateans. They had a special routine they would follow to bury their fellow family members after they die. First, you would put a gold coin in their mouth, which is kind of like the train ticket to the next life. Then, they would wrap them as if they were mummified. We learned that there are 814 facades to bury more than 814 people in Petra. In some houses, they built a triclinium, which is a place where three seats are built into the floor of the homes for extended family and friends to sit to give their condolences and let the family know how much they miss the person who had died. We learned a lot from Hassan.
Walking down the stone valley there were horses, carriages, camels, donkeys, mules, dogs, kittens and so more much to see, besides the ruins, of course. First, we saw the horse-drawn carriages. I always feel so bad for the horses making the ‘horse power’ for the carriages pulling people around. We got to ride camels (check out the lacrosse around the world link to see the video of Brayden and I on the camel)!
After the awesome camel ride, we rode a donkey and a mule! They were super tiny compared to the camels. We also saw an adorable baby donkey who was neighing when Brayden’s donkey rode by, because it was the daughter of his donkey. Brayden and I got to control the donkeys with the reins, just as you would with a horse. It was so much fun.
Here are some other interesting facts I thought you might like to learn:
- An upside down “V” carved into the face of the structure, which they called an obelisk, was supposed to send the spirit up to the heavens and also means there is a tomb inside
- A regular “V” carved into the building means the building is a temple and takes messages from the Gods
- A Bet-El is a carved rock that looks like a square tombstone, but means House of God (they were everywhere, and they believed the square symbol was the son of the Sun God)
- 25,000 people once lived in Petra
- Just like the rings on a tree tell you how old it is, the lines on the rocks tell you how they are (the lines tell you that Petra is about 33 million years old)
In this paragraph you will learn about flash floods and a water tunnel called the Siq. The Siq is a type of pathway that is like a tunnel that leads down to Petra. It is 1,200 meters in length, three to 15 meters in width and the slope of the Siq is 40 meters, meaning it is very tall, but very narrow, so if a flash flood moved through it, the likelihood of you surviving is not so good. The Nabateans built a dam that led to a tunnel with a water reservation at the end. They also created 88 water tunnels to divert the water away from the Siq. The Nabateans seems to be very smart in how they created Petra, how they came up with ideas on how to keep everyone safe and how to get water in a really dry desert.
There were two different times in Petra which were the Roman times and the Nabatean times. We learned that during the Roman times (which was after the Nabatean times) many things were built with limestone so, if you see limestone blocks it means they were built during the Roman period and if it is simply sandstone, that means the area was active during the Nabatean times. There was also a Byzantine Christian church built there, and we saw the mosaic floor that had all of the animals from Noah’s Ark story. Also, the crusaders lived at Petra for a time. I think it would have been really incredible and interesting to live in any of those times in history.
After leaving Petra, we drove a while down to the desert in Wadi Rum where we camped in the huge desert in a Bedouin campsite. There was a huge sandstorm blowing from Saudi Arabia, so everything was sandy and it was like the fog at home but the fog was all sand. We had a special dinner the Bedouins prepared called a “Zarb” where they bake everything under the ground and in the sand for hours before pulling it out of the underground baking pot to serve. It was tasty.
I love that pretty much everyday on this trip I get to imagine living in a different place and different time in history. I feel like I’m a time traveler!